Lee In Love
- Sandra Lee, 55, is engaged to Ben Youcef, 42, after a brief courtship and month-long trip to Europe.
- Lee had a lumpectomy and double mastectomy in 2015 after she learned that she had ductal carcinoma in situ thanks to screenings and early detection.
- She now advocates for early detection since routine screening found her cancer.
The former Food Network host and inventor, 55, is engaged to actor Ben Youcef, 42 after he popped the question while the two enjoyed a romantic getaway in Europe, according to two people close to the couple.Read More
Her ex announced just last week he would be stepping down from office due to allegations of sexual harassment from multiple young women who claim the incidents occurred during the time he was in a relationship with Lee.
Governor Cuomo was by Lee’s side in 2015 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
Lee’s Romantic Getaway
Lee and her new beau have been traveling through Europe for the past month.
The pair flew out to Capri first, shortly after Lee celebrated her 55th birthday. Lee posted photos of herself enjoying the sun, taking in the sites, and attending a UNICEF benefit while there, but did not post any snaps with her new beau.
After a few weeks in Italy, it was up to Paris for the pair, which is where Youcef appears to have popped the question.
Lee, who often takes extended breaks from social media, has yet to post on her social media about the engagement but did share a snap of herself in Paris on August 1 with the caption: “Nite everyone xoxo”
Who Is Ben Youcef?
Youcef, who was born Abdulwahab Benyoucef, is an Algerian actor who appeared in the Oscar-nominated film Munich.
He has since made guest appearances on more than a dozen television programs and become the focus of several national news reports back in 2013 when he began hosting an interfaith “Call to Prayer” at an LA mosque three times a week.
Youcef, a Muslim, would welcome members of his won faith as well as those who were Jewish and Christian or Catholic to come and join the service.
He has not worked as often in recent years and is separated from his first wife Apryl Stephenson, with whom he is involved in ongoing divorce proceedings. Court documents obtained by SurvivorNet show that the pair have been fighting over custody of their twins for the past three years.
It is unclear how long Lee and Youcef have been dating.
Lee’s Cancer Journey
Lee learned that she had breast cancer in 2015 after undergoing a routine mammogram.
She would later reveal that she had just finished a photo shoot for People after making the annual “Most Beautiful People List” when her doctor called to say she had ductal carcinoma in situ.
Because she decided to get screened, Lee was able to catch the disease while there were still several treatment options. Once she had assessed the possible risks and chances of the disease returning, she opted to have both a lumpectomy and a double mastectomy.
She did not share the news until after the lumpectomy was complete and she was cancer-free. Lee then announced that she had breast cancer and was going to have a double mastectomy.
At the same time, she began to share her story on social media and film the footage that would later be made into the documentary, Rx: Early Detection — A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee.
Lee was honest throughout, especially about her double mastectomy.
“I think what surprised her the most was my experiences on the second day (they call it the second day but it’s really just the day after),” she said of the procedure. “I have to say, I felt absolutely fine – it was as if nothing happened. I thought, “this is easy, what’s the big deal? I got this. Boy was I wrong!” said Lee.
She then explained it was the third day that leveled her and “hit me like a Mac truck,” especially when the drugs from surgery wore off.
“I can only compare it to someone who’s been in a massive car accident who gets up from the scene of the accident walks away, then has a complete conversation – then walks away, falls down, and collapses,” recalled Lee.
She later had to return to the hospital when she twisted the wrong way in bed and tore a muscle.
Lee said that she drooped 15lbs in the aftermath of that surgery, and was unable to keep food down or even think about eating due to nausea.
She is now an advocate for healthy eating on her Today segment Top Shelf, and recently dropped 25 pounds before her vacation.
What Is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ?
DCIS occurs when the cells which line the milk ducts in a woman’s breast have become cancerous, but not yet spread into any other surrounding area in the breast tissue.
That is why it is classified as a non-invasive form of breast cancer.
Despite the disease’s limited ability to spread, it needs to be treated as early as possible because there have been instances where cell mutations resulted in DCIS turning into an invasive form of cancer which does have the ability to metastacized.
A mastectomy is generally the recommended treatment in most cases.
Cancer and Diet
One common question that doctors get consistently from patients is the role of diet and exercise in cancer risk and prevention.
We spoke to Dr. Robert Wright, chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health at Mount Sinai, about diet and cancer risk.
When it comes to dietary advice that applies to everyone, Dr. Wright’s was pretty straightforward — eat more vegetables and stay active.
“What we haven’t figured out for cancer is, what is the combination of risk factors that end up leading to a particular person getting cancer,” Dr. Wright said. “The goal [in the future] is to identify those people who are more susceptible to cancer and to give them counseling and foods that they can eat and other habits like exercise that can reduce their risk. Right now, we’re not really good at predicting that.”
While some cancers do develop from inherited genes, most don’t, so researchers are working on ways to understand how lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and chemical exposures put people at risk. With that in mind, Dr. Wright stressed that eating well and staying active are still important — for all of us.
“In the end, prevention is actually kind of simple,” he said. “It’s what we always know. It’s exercise and eat well. That means eating more vegetables and fewer meats, particularly red meats.”